Developers, being battered by the economic downturn, have been warned that imminent planning changes may also present further challenges and opportunities.
David Brammer, an associate in the Birmingham office of law firm DLA Piper, cautions that they must be on top of the new regulations from the outset.
The Planning Bill, which is expected to receive the Royal Assent later this month, aims to streamline the system so major projects are not held up for years.
The Bill sets out a new regime covering the likes of power stations, reservoirs, airports, railways, wind farms, waste projects and others, establishing a new body called the Infrastructure Planning Commission to decide on whether they should go ahead or not.
The IPC will comprise a panel of experts who will hear the evidence as well as take the final decision, all within a timetable of around nine months.
This will replace public inquiries, and the Secretary of State will only be able to decide on such applications in exceptional circumstances.
The second major change in the Bill will establish a Community Infrastructure Levy, commonly know as CIL, which will give local authorities the ability to “charge” developers to help fund new infrastructure provision.
This is designed to simplify a largely ad hoc system that had grown up around planning charges and planning gain supplement.
There had been fears that the CIL could be set at such a burdensome level that it would delay, or even halt, the creation of new homes and commercial developments.
The Government, though, has already made one important concession, removing a controversial link between the level of the CIL and the increase in land value once planning permission has been granted.
The link had been vigorously opposed by industry lobby groups comprising the likes of the British Property Federation, the Major Developers Group, and the Home Builders Federation.
The CIL will now be calculated with reference to local infrastructure needs and economic viability of development in the area, rather than increases in land value.
The concession, warmly welcomed, contrasts with the Government’s refusal to act in similar vein over the ongoing row over landowners having to pay rates on empty buildings.
Mr Brammer said: “The Government has in this case listened to concerns and this move will hopefully ensure the required support for communities – but in a way that does not deter development, nor create the impression that this is a centrally imposed development land tax.
“For the moment it is all very much up in the air anyway – the industry has made it clear that in the current economic climate the scope for achieving significant contributions to infrastructure are greatly reduced.
“The new Bill will bring about significant changes to our planning system, particularly for major projects.
“All eyes will be on how well this new approach works in practice.
“Recent re-modelling of the planning laws has not been entirely successful. If the new Bill introduces a system which everyone can buy into then it will be a major achievement.
“And hopefully then it can in better times expedite the infrastructure improvements which are badly needed, both nationally and for the future of the region.”
There are a number of other elements in the Bill, including early public consultation and giving planning authorities more flexibility over the preparation of new look local development plans.